Tuesday, 31 July 2012

My Press Conference held in Mirpur

My Press Conference held in Mirpur Dr Shabir Choudhry 24 June 2012 My last visit to Pakistani Administered Kashmir was a private one; but despite that I was faced with a situation where I had to hold a press conference in Mipur. Many people approached me and explained to me about corrupt practises going on unchecked in Mirpur University of Science and Technology, known as MUST. In one sense it was a local issue and did not warrant an intervention from me – a man known for speaking on issues which have national and international dimensions. Then I was surrounded by some community leaders who said Kashmir National Party must play its due role in highlighting and resolving issues which concern local people. They said there was no point in fighting for independence of the State of Jammu and Kashmir when the area that is considered to be ‘independent’ is on verge of collapse because of nepotism, tribalism, regionalism and corrupt practices. They said if you cannot help us to stop this corruption and mismanagement that goes on unchecked in the University, which is a national institution and which should promote merit, equality and justice and prepare students to lead the nation and help to build civil society institutions, then you might as well stop your struggle and stop fooling people that you are fighting for their fundamental rights. After listening to them I decided to gather more information on this topic, and I learnt that what these people said seem to be correct; and senior officials of MUST openly violated rules, and make political appointments by discarding merit and ability. I was told that the Vice Chancellor himself was not a competent man; as he did not have a Doctorate; and relevant experience which was essential for the post of the Vice Chancellor. He is alleged to have won his post by greasing the hands of the President who appointed him. I was told the man who himself is a product of corruption and political appointment cannot promote merit and purge practise of inequality and injustice. To me all these were serious issues, and Kashmir National Party as a political party, and I as a writer, reformist, political leader and human rights activist have always taken a leading role in highlighting issues that concerned people; and opposed inequality, injustice, tribalism, regionalism and nepotism. I thought I had to demonstrate that the KNP cared for the rights of the local people and would help them to resolve their problems and help them to fight those forces which promote extremism, regionalism, nepotism, injustice and inequality. With that in mind I obtained various documents related to the issue and asked my friends to arrange a press conference on 08 June 2012 in Mirpur Press Club. After welcoming more than 30 electronic and print media journalists I said: 1/ Throughout my life I and my friends have struggled against injustice and inequality. We have always promoted merit, peace, political and economic stability; and today’s press conference is continuation of our struggle and tradition. Since 1995, I visit Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, almost every year. However, this time I have come after two years and eight months. Last time I came with a delegation of Kashmir National Party which came here on a Study Tour of Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. I prepared a comprehensive report of our Study Tour and one part of the report was launched in the British House of Lords and the full report was launched in Geneva during the UN Human Rights session. We also published Urdu translation of that report for Urdu readers. I have given this background because after the publication of this report some well – wishers suggested that I should not travel to this region until dust settles down, hence my absence from this region for so long. Normally when I travel to Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, I send out a press release about my visit, make appointments to meet diplomats, political leaders and journalists; and hold a press conference on my arrival in Rawalpindi/ Islamabad. However, because this was my private visit I did not do any of the above. This press conference is my first, and to date, the only political activity after arriving here; and main reason for this is the issues related to MUST, where people claim all is not welcome as the University has become centre of corruption, nepotism, misconduct and unprofessional conduct. Many community leaders and individuals have approached me and requested my to help them to fight corruption and mismanagement in the University, which is having very serious negative impact on the students. They said what lessons will students learn when they see open violation of merit, rampant corruption, tribalism and favouritism? They further said there is corruption in Pakistan too, but those responsible for corruption in Pakistan feel ashamed when they see naked corruption of Azad Kashmir. Those nations which want to progress and compete with other nations and face new challenges courageously they try to root out corruption and promote merit and justice in society and in all institutions. They do not appoint corrupt, uneducated, unscrupulous and inefficient people to run national institutions, especially those which impart education and professional skills. Institutions are not built over night. Institution building requires hard work, honesty, dedicated staff and above all educated and experienced staff. However, to destroy them you do not need to plan anything. You only need to appoint head of the institution a weak and inefficient person, he will do the rest, as he will appoint inefficient and corrupt people to various posts and they will ensure its downhill journey continues. This University does not belong to any tribe – it is not Jat or Rajput – it is an educational institution and belongs to people of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, its lack of progress, inefficiency, mismanagement and chaos should worry all of us. I am educated and honest person. Also I am hard working and sincere, but if I am appointed head of an Atomic Energy Commission, then surely that institution will greatly suffer, because despite my honesty and good intentions it will not make the desired progress because I do not have the relevant education, relevant experience and relevant know how. Similarly, the Vice Chancellor may be honest person with good intentions, but question is, does he have the relevant education and experience to qualify for this post and manage this educational institution and make it a vibrant and successful university. There is a lot of criticism on his ability, qualifications and style of running this university. People say he is running like a head – less chicken and doesn’t have a clue what he is doing as he is subject to different pressures from various quarters because of lack of relevant qualification and professional skills. One London based newspaper Nawa e Jang published an article on the Vice Chancellor written by Mohammed Abbas Khan. He has very strongly criticised the Vice Chancellor Mr Naib Hussain and questioned his ability and skills. Mohammed Abbas Khan writes and I quote: ‘In University Calendar (which the Vice Chancellor produced) there was nothing about annual plan, exams, or future programmes of the University; and to insult intelligence and common sense, the Calendar with a photo of the Vive Chancellor were hung in shops, markets and rooms of the University to promote the Vice Chancellor. Name of the Vice Chancellor of MUST is Choudhry Naib Hussain. By producing this Calendar the Vice Chancellor has made this fact known that he is far removed from academia and education, otherwise he would not have brought shame to Choudhry tribe and Hussain who was a son of ‘door of Knowledge’ (meaning Hazrat Ali). However, he has proved that he is Naib – meaning assistant. It would be better to say that if he was ‘an assistant messenger’, then he would have performed better. I appeal to President, Prime Minister and government of Azad Kashmir to get his educational certificates verified; and his ability to Head this institution analysed. If appropriate action is not taken then this University (MUST) will only produce assistant messengers and not experts in science and technology’. Unquote I have not met the Vice Chancellor, but I heard he is from the Jat Tribe, but that does not qualify him for this post. If Choudhry Naib Hussain has any self – respect, or respect and care for education and knowledge, or has any love for this university or future of this region then he should honourably resign from his post and let some competent person take over. Furthermore, my request to him is not to bring more shame to the Choudhry Tribe and leave the post with dignity; and do what you are good at. 2/ Now I want to discuss some other important issues which are close to my heart and which are fundamental to the KNP ideology and struggle. Kashmir National Party actively promotes the cause of united and independent Jammu and Kashmir. We believe accession to India or Pakistan is not possible, viable or practical. Jammu and Kashmir is multi ethnic and multi religious State and any attempt to impose any kind of accession will ultimately lead to division of the State which will create enormous problems for the entire region. 3/ We strongly believe that the Kashmir dispute is political in nature and it is not a fight against any religion. Those who want to present it as a jihad and religious struggle are essentially paving way for the division of the State on religious lines and creating hatred and divisions in name of religion. There is no danger to Islam in Jammu and Kashmir; however, interests of some people could only be protected and promoted by using the religious card. 4/ Also KNP believe use of a gun cannot provide any solution to the Kashmir dispute; but surely it could add to our miseries and problems. Because of militancy and gun culture already we have lost a generation. Our women have been harassed, intimidated and raped. Our young men have lost their dignity and died in torture cells and some are still languishing in jails. Militancy and gun culture have resulted in many other social and economic problems for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Those who sponsored this militancy and those who agreed to become proxies of forces of occupation are directly responsible for all these ills; and they must be made accountable for their actions. 5/ KNP leaders feel people of Jammu and Kashmir were fooled by agencies of one occupier in believing that they were fighting a war of liberation. In actual fact, they were perceived by the international community as proxies that advanced the interests of one occupier that provided them with arms, training, funds and other logistic support. It is because of this wrong policy that despite great sacrifices we are nowhere near our goal of independence. Those who sponsored this militancy never wanted independence of Jammu and Kashmir – they have achieved what they planned; and we people of Jammu and Kashmir have only suffered because some among us sided with them and agreed to become their proxies. 6/ We believe it was a wrong policy that we should all fight to liberate the Valley of Kashmir, whereas the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is occupied. Those who promoted this policy either intentionally or inadvertently advanced the policy of the Pakistani establishment; and they wanted the Valley of Kashmir to be the focus of attention because it helped them to keep attention away from areas of Jammu and Kashmir under their control. In view of the past experience the KNP leaders formulated this practical policy that those who are occupied by India should struggle against that occupation; and those who are occupied by Pakistan should struggle on this side of the divide. We do not advocate use of gun on this side of LOC, or in any part of the State; but we have to ensure that we tell the world community that we are also occupied on this side of the divide. Pakistani establishment has been clever that they have mentally enslaved people on this side of the divide; and many people are unable to differentiate between independence and occupation. People on the Indian side of the divide can talk about their occupation, can shout slogans against India, can have demonstrations against India, throw stones, set up fires, burn their flag and use gun; but people on the Pakistani side of the divide are not even allowed to call themselves as occupied people. Last year during the UN Human Rights session in Geneva, Miwaiz Omar Farooq also addressed a seminar. He did not speak one word about Jammu, Ladakh, Azad Kashmir or Gilgit Baltistan. After the seminar I walked with him out of the hall and started talking to him, suddenly I heard loud voices coming from the hall; and I saw my friend Abbas Butt, Chairman of the KNP surrounded by 4 Pakistani men who were trying to intimidate him. They asked Abbas Butt where he was from. Abbas Butt in his own style replied: he was from Pakistani occupied Kashmir; and after hearing this, these people surrounded him and tried to harass and intimidate him. I rushed back to help my friend. Point to be noted is that he was harassed inside the UN building during the UN Human Rights session; and his only crime was that he said he was from the Pakistani occupied Kashmir. What that means is that we people are not even allowed to say that we are occupied; and starting a struggle against that occupation is totally different thing. 7/ KNP leaders believe dialogue is the only solution to resolve this complicated dispute. But this dialogue should not be between India and Pakistan. We people of Jammu and Kashmir are the principal party, and we must be part of the dialogue process. Having said that, I want to acknowledge that there is a big problem, as to who should represent people of Jammu and Kashmir at the negotiation table. We are deeply divided and have no national leader who commands respect and authority. We have many regional, tribal and religious leaders and they are not in any position to represent all ethnic groups of Jammu and Kashmir. To overcome this problem we suggest that out of three schools of thought – namely pro India, pro Pakistan and pro-independence, only the last group is not represented. Interests of the other two groups are represented either by India or by Pakistan; and the third group – pro-independence should get a seat at the negotiation table. Once that principle is acknowledged then pro – independence groups can sit down and decide which people are best qualified to protect and promote interests of people of Jammu and Kashmir. 8/ KNP strongly protest against violation of State Subject in Azad Kashmir. Already by violation of the State Subject, Pakistan has changed demography of Gilgit Baltistan; and non – local people are now controlling trade and business there. We demand that the State subject must be respected in both regions under Pakistan. 9/ We are also disturbed about the news that the Pakistani authorities are planning to make Azad Kashmir a province of Pakistan. We condemn this planning and express our determination to oppose it as well. 10/ KNP also protest against exploitation of Kashmiri resources by the Pakistani officials and demand that there must be an immediate end to this policy of exploitation and using our resources to prop up Pakistani economy and reward some individuals. 11/ Lastly, I want to demand that missing people from Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan should also be located and released, as the Chief Justice of Pakistan is locating the missing people of Pakistan. End Email: drshabirchoudhry:gmail.com

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